What Does It Profit a Man? – The Death of Osama Bin Laden

I was driving to Charleston last night when a friend texted the news. The network on my phone was suspiciously not loading CNN. I was about an hour from any major city and I was panning the Amplitude Modulation frequency in a panic for detail. I would get 30 seconds of information that would rapidly deteriorate into static. All the while, I was dictating, into my phone, snippets of ideas for a song I might do when I got in after 11:00 pm. President Obama began his address sometime around 11:20, I suppose. About the time I crossed the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. I parked outside of the place where I stay to hear him finish. I knew what I wanted to say in today’s song but wrote for about 45 minutes before deciding to put it down. I wanted it to be published for you first thing. It wasn’t and I’m sorry.

I need to be careful. Last night was important. It is of great strategic and psychological value in the war against enemies that would destroy us. And, it is a type of partial closure for victims of 9/11 and this country. It is also an impressively high tactical accomplishment.

So, today’s song is not a take. Or an angle. Or contrarianism. I’ve held these views since the day we knew him to be accountable for the attack. And, I feel the same to this day.

It is simply not an occasion to delight. It is a sick day that he has forced us to kill him, as sick as all the carnage before it. Everything associated with the war on terrorism is something to mourn not celebrate.

Many would say, including the President himself, that the event somehow reaffirms the greatness of our country. I am thankful for the men and women who fight on my behalf. The SEALs that apparently accomplished the attack put their lives in harms way for something valiant. Our country is great for many reasons. But, I have difficulty boasting the fact that it took two wars, ten years (really twenty), and all the human and military resources at the disposal of the most powerful nation on earth to assassinate a single man. In the same way, I wouldn’t pat myself on the back for beating my 7 year old in basketball, especially if it took me 20 tries.

There is a significant range of appropriate responses to this, including pride and exuberance in some measure. But, for me, personally, it stops shy of chanting. That’s for soccer and barbarians. Let us be above the images that we scorn of our enemies who dance around the bodies and wreckage of our boys.

Thankful and dignified in the same moment. Happy that we may be safer; sadder that it has to be so.

And, by the way, you’re welcome for the heads up that you were given here first.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Gudo.

Today’s song blog here:

Something to Celebrate

11 thoughts on “What Does It Profit a Man? – The Death of Osama Bin Laden

  1. I’m not convinced on a doctrinal/theological level that we’re supposed to love a mass murderer like Osama Bin Laden who died in his sins. There comes a point at which someone has made their choice and all the fuzzyness in the world won’t really help them: when the sinner has made himself indistinguishable from the sin. Ever read “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis? We’re called to love people right up to the very end, but there comes a point at which we have to let them have their way.

  2. Sintax,
    No one writes lyrics that drive me to introspection as much as you. Thus, to this day, “I love Osama Bin Laden cause he was made in God’s image” haunts me, especially and obviously in the last 24 hours. The thing about that lyric is that it forces me to confront how beyond comprehension God’s image is to me, and also the enormity of God’s grace for someone like me. Loving Bin Laden isn’t about “loving Bin Laden”, it’s really about loving God’s image – I think that’s my conclusion, if I’m on the right track of what you were trying to say?
    I haven’t pressed play on your song for today yet, I certainly will right after I hit “post” for this comment. And I’ll probably listen to it several more times after that.
    Really what it boils down to, like any other event big or small, is how do we apply the life lesson that can be extracted from them to our own personal situation, such that our response today is more mature than our response yesterday. ah, I’m getting way too deep, and it’s all your fault. Big ups to you and the whole DS5 fam for being the IVP of our culture.

  3. It’s hard, and I appreciate the point. But, it seems that the directive to us is fairly plain — to love our enemies. Although God exercises, in the Christian understanding, a righteous wrath and a perfect justice, our judgment is fatally and dependably imperfect. And, we are specifically warned that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. So where an omniscient Creator might be able to make such nuanced judgment’s about the irreconcilability of a soul, I would modestly demur.

  4. You are the man Joe. Well said. And you called it….although I can’t believe you were pulling against Duke!!!

  5. just one clarification – when I wrote “loving God’s image” that probably didn’t sound right. I didn’t mean to make what sounds like a prideful statement. what i really meant to say there is your lyric does not appear to be about loving Bin Laden for the sole sake of loving Bin Laden, but loving God in response to His will that all people, His people – Bin Laden, me, you, Tiger Woods, John Piper – be made in His image.

  6. Exactly, David. In so many instances, the only way to live the command to love our enemy is to somehow be reminded that the person is, in Christian teaching, literally the seed of God, bearing, even if in a limited and distorted sense, the Creator’s very image and imprint. And, more importantly a soul beloved of God. A Father who would literally run to Bin Laden would he only return. Thanks for what you said. To know our words have had that sort of impact is the greatest affirmation.

    Rhett, a prediction isn’t a preference! I called Pitt because that’s what the Eightball told me! Thanks for the kind words.

  7. I think justice was a good word to describe how I felt upon hearing the news. It is a strange feeling. There is a certain sense of fulfillment that comes from encountering justice but its bittersweet, because it is fleeting and imperfect… I received a few vengeful text messages and saw my share of hasty Facebook posts but I too find it difficult to “celebrate” another man’s death. I could not help but cringe at the scene of fellow countrymen reveling in Time Square. Change the wardrobe and insert a background that includes mud huts and burning cars and the notion of a “civilized Western society” can start to fray. Every time I heard someone say “we got him,” I could not help but wonder if they had the right to use that pronoun or, if they knew what “got him” really looked or felt like, would they be so bold about claiming it?

    I do feel an immense amount of pride at the courage and skill displayed by the SEALs who executed the mission. If the details we have been given are accurate, what they pulled off is most likely one of the most impressive operations in US military history. President Obama should also be commended at fulfilling a campaign promise: if he had actionable intelligence about OBL’s whereabouts in Pakistan, he would act. His actions certainly challenge some presumptions I had about who he is as a leader.

    Today has been melancholy. I have friends that I went to college with, others that I trained alongside, who have lost limbs and in some cases, their lives, in the build-up to this effort. This is the crowning achievement. In the end, this is what we get. Again, justice is strange.

  8. Sam, as a veteran, you know how much I respect your view on these things. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. The whole topic is really interesting. And kudos to our SpecOps, that was quite an impressive operation. But the State of America defending itself aside, I’d like to reflect a bit on what I’ve been restling with in my mind as a Christian individual.

    First, God’s freely bestowed his own image and likeness upon us and asks us to in return give ourselves freely to him. When someone declines to do so, which we surmise from the life someone like bin Laden lived, and then is killed, how else should a Christian feel other than somber/melancholy/even a queasiness at the thought? We are not simply animals, much to our society’s dislike. God has set us apart from the kingdom of instinctive responses to the kingdom of reason and consciousness. He has shown us something better, even though we sometimes don’t understand it. When an enemy dies, our first instinct is to celebrate in the streets and wallow in our pride and “glorify” being the ones who put that “animal” out of his misery. Is that an instinct that we should follow, or an instance in which we should first reason before rushing into the streets?

    The world was watching though, and as Sam said, that part of the world saw how we celebrated the death of their countryman. We have seen “them” do it on tv all too many times. But we are not them, and cannot be. God came and revealed himself to us and taught us how to act. I have to ask myself though, if they would have seen Americans with candles in the streets, praying for his soul and for the victims, and for peace, and voicing their lament that it had to come to this, would we have planted a different seed? Might there have been engendered a spark of admiration and even love of this “Christian” nation…. instead of hatred and pride of the “crusading” nation?

    God is just and to all his judgement eventually comes. But God is also love, and I doubt there is a party in the streets of heaven though when a soul goes down instead of up.

  10. Rhett, the last point is exactly the right one. The dignified response is not simply the most respectful, it is, in fact, the most effective.

  11. Pingback: Osam Bin Laden: One Year | the press junket

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